The Ohio General Assembly passed a new bill (SB 202) on April 3rd that prohibits the use of a person’s disability as a factor in determining custody. What does this mean for you?
In essence, the act bars the court or any private/public child protective agency from denying certain custody conditions to a parent on the basis of their disability. These conditions are:
- Exercising custody, parenting time, or visitation rights
- Adopting a minor
- Serving as a minor’s foster caregiver
- Being appointed as a minor’s guardian
If you are disabled, the court cannot use that disability to deny you from any of the actions above. Of course, this doesn’t mean you won’t be denied custody on a different basis; rather, one’s disability cannot be used to deny them the right to custody, adoption, etc.
But what does the bill mean by “disability”? The Senate follows the guidelines of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) to define the term. Under the ADA, disability is described as “(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual, (B) a record of such impairment, or (C) being regarded as having such impairment.” The ADA defines “major life activities” as anything occurring in everyday life such as caring for oneself, walking, seeing, learning, etc. Check out sec. 12102 of the ADA to see the full list. If you fall under any of these categories, you cannot be denied custody on that basis.
Additionally, the bill allows certain supportive services to be enacted in the case of a guardian having a disability. This refers to any service at the federal, state, or local level that assists people with disabilities in everyday activities. If the court determines that an individual is to be awarded custody, it may also determine that these services must be provided to the guardian in order to take care of a child more fully.
If you feel that your right to custody has been challenged because of a disability or if you have been denied accommodation as described above, you may bring action or file a motion in the court. If that happens, the court will determine whether your denial of custody or accommodation is reasonable. If pursuing legal action, or a motion consult with a family attorney. They will be familiar with the rules concerning and affecting custody decisions, in particular those recently passed by the Ohio General Assembly.